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Yesterday Anita and I made our way up the Historic Downtown Mall, sampling a new salad place and trying on a few things. A shoe store may have been involved. And we landed at the City Council Chamber behind three giant statues of Virginia Presidents to listen to two academics discuss their research and books on “Navigating International Conflicts: Who Helps the Refugees?”

Christine Mahoney spoke first. She told us that refugees live in a kind of limbo, “They are living on the edge of existence, failure is the norm.” She talked about the balance of help any International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) can offer at any one time; for instance, when Doctors Without Borders was fighting Ebola in Zaire, it was not able to provide its baseline essential healthcare to the rest of that country. Guns and butter, the one thing I remember from Econ 101. Maternal deaths went up, malnutrition skyrocketed. But there are natural disasters, like disease and earthquakes, and then there are those that are man-made.

Like corruption and war. Mahoney spoke of all the obstacles in her book, “Failure and Hope, Fighting for the Rights of the Forcibly Displaced.” Advocacy for refugees is not prioritized in a country when their citizens as a whole are living below poverty levels. And only in Iraq have refugees been allowed to work; Kurds from Syria have been assimilated into the Kurdish communities of Northern Iraq. This is unusual since all other refugees are not allowed to work in their host countries.

She also pointed out that people who leave their country are the “lucky” ones, since they usually have the resources to cross borders. Those refugees who have the least – the sickest, the elderly, the poorest of the poor – are truly suffering in displacement camps amidst their own people. When an audience member asked what we can do, Mahoney pointed out the two best ways to advocate for the displaced are with votes and money. There are limitations to “Political Leverage” however, because most governments do not have the will to change a system and allow refugees to work or travel freely.

But we can use “Economic Leverage” to help level the playing field. We can bypass big banks with Bitcoin for instance. We can empower hopeless people through investment funds with micro-finance, using impact investors for profit. We can help a woman start a bakery, all that woman needs is a cell phone to get started. When life-saving food and medicine is the priority for humanitarian organizations, using open source financing to fund entrepreneurial projects is a ray of light for this marginalized population.

The success of small loans to the displaced has been evident in KIVA https://www.kiva.org Anita told me she has given to KIVA and plans to get her grandson involved this year. Then we talked about the Passover Seder, what should she bring?

It’s my turn, my first Seder in 38 years of marriage. The Jews were once slaves in Egypt and had to leave their home. My Irish ancestors left an island that could no longer sustain them. All Americans, except Native Americans, were refugees at one time or another. “In 2015 there were 60 Million people displaced by violent global conflict, the highest since WWII.”

And the leader of the free world is closing our borders, and blaming Democrats for not passing the GOP healthcare bill. At least Bob and I did our part to pester our Representative Tom Garrett, now we need to start thinking about the next step of Political Leverage in the spy mystery that has engulfed Washington, DC . And btw, did you know Hemingway was a Russian spy?!…Oh Donnie Boy, loyalty is a dish served warm, like Borscht.   IMG_0214

 

Happy First Day of Spring! We are in the middle of a self-inflicted March Madness (sorry Blue Devils), pruning and sprucing up the yard while simultaneously cleaning out closets. Bob gets to ride around on his tractor while I get to tackle my clothes. And since I’m not afraid to ask for help, this year I’ve called in a professional. The Bride gave me the idea; in the past, she would sit among my shoes and ask, “How many pairs of red shoes do you need Mom?” A few weeks ago, my daughter suggested I try hiring someone who does this sort of thing for a living. Not a psychologist/clutter counselor per se, but a stylist.

A stylist? Moi? She said she has friends in Nashville who rave about this service. And here I thought you had to be a celebrity to hire a stylist, I never even had a personal shopper. Or a Stitch Fix account for that matter…and then I thought, wait, why not? It’s true I can write in my nightgown, but hey, we are on the move! Looking for a beach house, traveling to France, moving closer to our Grandbabies, if only I had thought of this before the Rocker’s wedding! Remember, one of my first articles for the “Berkshire Eagle” was titled, “Fashion Police.” 

I wrote about moving from New Jersey to New England, trying to fit in with the natives. The paper actually hired models to illustrate my three styles of dressing – 1) the Native wore jeans, flannel and work boots; they were very early adopters of the uni-sex grunge look; 2) the Tourists were New Yorkers who came for the weekend or the summer and wore mostly Black to Tanglewood; and then you had the rest of us. I was a 3) Transplant, we had moved to Pittsfield from all over the country, we didn’t even own a pair of jeans, and didn’t have a style of our own. Hey, it was the 80s.

Obviously, it was a semi-satirical essay!

Moving to Virginia wasn’t too traumatic. We built our small house, pared down our lives. I was wearing jeans again, and I’d discovered Eileen Fisher. She is a designer who spoke my language, ethically sourced clothes in natural fibers, her designs are the epitome of easy elegance. Stevie Nix meets Helen Mirren! This old Catholic School girl was close to finally finding her own style. At least once a year I’d meet Anita for lunch in Richmond and get my Nordstrom/Eileen Fisher fix.

I knew I was on the right track when I found Andrea Wood, a “Personal Stylist and Wardrobe Consultant.”  www.andreawoodstyling.com  She doesn’t just help you clean out your closets, she looks at your clothes with a professional’s eye. The first thing I had to do was answer a questionnaire, then she had me make a special Pinterest page. I already had an old page called “Fashionish,” which tells you how I felt about my clothes. But now, I was having fun on our last snow day of the year looking for something new. I titled this page, “Style Mavens!” https://www.pinterest.com/mpjamma/style-mavens/

As soon as she walked in the door, I knew Andrea had my number. We talked a little over tea and then we got to work. The first thing I asked her was, “How many pairs of khaki pants does one need?” She zipped through my walk-in closet in no time, pulling out things she thought were outdated, or just didn’t look like “ME.” How did she know me so well? We made a special spot for “Vintage,” and another for Caribbean vacations. I no longer needed Black-Tie event dresses, and besides these heavily sequined silk numbers had seen a moth, or two. And also I’ll never see size 6 again.

It was such a relief this closet cleanse. Andrea told me she didn’t really think I needed much help putting outfits together (thank you dear), although we did do some mixing and matching. She piled all my old clothes in her car and was going to donate some and start a consignment account for me at a local shop with the others. I looked around and took a deep breath. I’d found things I forgot I had, clothes I never could find because I couldn’t move the hangers, beautiful blouses and pants that fit! She was a miracle worker, and she inspired me to keep going.

Sweaters were next. I posted a picture of the first sweater I ever knit on Facebook. I was trying to finish it in England and wore it through the metal detector in Heathrow with a stitch holder in my neck. That set off all the alarms and prompted my first full body search at an airport. I paired it in the 80s with a long, flowy skirt and Goth boots. I wanted to crowd source the question, “Keep or Donate?” Ms Cait, my new Daughter-in-Law, loved it and so I’ll be shipping it to LA pronto.

We all deserve our own “What Not to Wear” consultation at least once in our lives. My old friend and clutter counselor Betsy didn’t live around the block anymore. Anyone going through a transition – selling a house, losing weight, spring cleaning or just plain suffering from FOTO the dreaded Fear of Throwing Out – could benefit from a kind, professional helping hand. This coming weekend is the VA Book Festival, and now I can look less like a conflicted writer in yoga pants, and more like a confident writer in casual chic street wear! Thanks Andrea! 

This is the “Before” picture she wanted. Notice how clothes are barely able to breathe? Final pictures coming soon!  IMG_0172

Seriously

There’s a big Georgian building in Ivy I’ve mentioned before, it’s an offshoot of UVA that offers free and open forums to citizens every month with leaders on the world stage. Its mission is to decode public policy for the rest of us, and its “American Forum” can be viewed on PBS – if there is still a PBS in the future:

“At the Miller Center, we strive to illuminate presidential and political history accurately and fairly. To shine a light on all the ways our democracy has worked—and all the times America has struggled. To inspire America’s leaders with unbiased insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.” https://millercenter.org

Because I felt like I needed some illuminating, I bid farewell to Bob, who was waiting at home for painters, and drove into town to hear Gerald F Seib (Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor and Chief Commentator) pontificate on presidential power at the Miller Center. As makeup artists powdered their faces, and the lights dimmed for filming, American Forum’s host, Douglas Blackmon, prepared to interview Seib about Donald Trump. The room was so packed I was squeezed onto a pew sitting sidesaddle. Seniors and students alike, we were all eager to understand Trumpland.

Seib told us that reaching out directly to US citizens is nothing new, that President Obama actually liked to cut out the main stream media and talk to real people. Utilizing Twitter however is a new phenomena.  Labeling media the “…enemy of the American people” is not just new, it’s dangerous. He called Trump a “Master at Communicating,” in that he creates bright shiny objects (Tweets) every day in order to control the media.

Seib also told us time and again that we must take everything a President says seriously; when his aides tell us not to take his statements – like the wiretapping charge against Obama – literally, we the public and the media must still consider his words seriously. The surveillance charge is a diversion, it puts the others (his media enemies) on the defensive.

And although I like to think the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted (Scotty Reston), Seib told us that reporters need to explain and put into context a leader’s words. His job is to analyze in depth, to find the meaning and illuminate facts. He emphasized the one thing journalists have is our credibility, ditto for presidents, then he asked us how will we know when to take Trump seriously – if everything he says isn’t?

I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

He did acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ years ago, but insisted that his editorial pages have been critical of Trump. And he told us about some memos that had been circulating; saying it’s fine to call certain statements “False” but not “Lies,” not until they are proven to have come from a person’s conscious intent…“and nobody has skirted around facts like Donald Trump.”

Seib warned reporters not to let their attitude substitute for the facts. In other words, don’t become the story you were covering. Harder and harder to do these days I imagine. With UVA Communications majors sitting in the orchestra seats, Blackmon asked what one piece of advice he would give to a young journalist today. “Be honest!”

Seib went on to say he would tell Mr T he must be careful not to devalue his currency (ie credibilty) and to understand and accept that a free press is good for democracy and he should not diminish it!

In short, the Bully Pulpit is still real, it exists and it’s easier than ever to get everybody’s attention. And today, similar to Nixon’s Watergate era, we reporters must be willing to, “…suspend disbelief”…one story at a time. In order to write about the news today we must  “temporarily accept as believable, events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html        Yes sir, that’s the best definition of Trumpland so far!

Let’s hope Mr T doesn’t lay his hands on Angela Merkel while he’s talking trade with Germany. No shoulder rubs for the President who grabs you know what. Seriously. And let’s also hope Tillerson does no harm in Asia. Although he refused to bring the press with him, so how will we know? Not to worry, Andrea Mitchell is on the job.  This is the season to lay mulch at the feet of Buddha, and have faith that North Korea doesn’t take Tillerson seriously.

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Morning grammar nerds! And you know who you are. I must admit I no longer watch “Presidential” press conferences, but I just couldn’t resist Melissa McCarthy’s portrayal of Sean Spicer, and so I occasionally tune-in just to see what nonsense the White House is dishing up today; or, as I like to ask Bob over my first cup of coffee, “Damage report?”

Well bless his heart, yesterday poor Sean was trying to soften Mr T’s words on Twitter yet again, by placing his fingers up and gesturing “air quotes” around the word “wiretapping.” In other words, the middle school bullies really are running the show up on the Hill.

Everyone knows air quotes when they see them: the middle and forefingers of each hand wiggling to resemble quotation marks. Often accompanied by a spoken “quote-unquote,” they’re typically used to mock or disown the phrase they surround. They mean something “is ‘so-called,’” rather than real, the late William Safire, the great scholar of political language, once wrote. They cast “aspersion on the word or phrase that follows,” he said. “A sneer is built in.”             https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2017/03/14/an-investigation-of-air-quotes-mostly-used-to-discredit-the-other-sides-words-not-your-own-as-per-sean-spicer/?utm_term=.fe463b8a7442

And the funny thing is, even the Urban Dictionary knows that air quotes are so… one whole generation ago. “Used ad nauseam by ‘pretentious’ and ostensibly ‘intelligent’ university students, to advertise their ‘superior morals’ and ‘erudition’.” It’s like the thumbs-up sign, only worse, because air quotes exude privilege. They were (past tense) a preppy way to discredit those plebes beneath them, not in the way Sean tried to use them discrediting his boss’ words.

They belong to the 60s, where they should have stayed, along with Kellyanne’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jacket. http://mentalfloss.com/article/80939/11-facts-about-sgt-peppers-lonely-hearts-club-band

“Walking back” their boss’ Tweets seems to be a full time job on the Hill. But trying to soften Mr T’s attack on President Obama is yet another distraction. Let’s NOT discuss special prosecutors and Russia’s “involvement” in our election. Instead, like a child, Mr T turns responsibility away from himself, to shift blame on his predecessor for “wiretapping” Trump Tower. Only now, he only meant general surveillance, like spying “microwaves.” Darn, it’s hard not to use real quotes when writing about this stuff!

I wonder if Mr T went to his grandchildrens’ Temple for Purim this past weekend? Maybe that’s why his Twitter fingers went quiet, after all the “wiretapping” and microwave memes the media consumed during the week. Ivanka’s children are 5, 3 and almost 1. These are perfect ages for Purim celebrations; my Nashville grandchildren had a blast dressing up like super heroes and attending a carnival at their Temple.

Purim is a feminist’s delight because it’s about a Jewish woman who kills an enemy of the Jewish people. Esther is one of many Persian queens, but she, like Moses, was adopted and was actually Jewish. Think about this for a second. Does Christianity have a holiday dedicated to a woman? As a child, I remember having lots of saints days named after women, celebrating martyrdom…not exactly the same. Esther had balls, she had chutzpah! We had the Annunciation, i.e. a fourteen year old girl is visited by an angel and told she will have a Virgin Birth…

Coming out of years spent celebrating Mass in Latin, I was happy to enter a Temple and make lots of noise at Purim. In fact, Purim was so much fun – mohn cookies shaped like Haman hats, dressing up like Halloween or Carnevale, and laughing and playing in the Temple – I’m pretty sure that it’s what sold me on Judaism.

But the irony of my grandchildren celebrating in a building that had to be evacuated because of bomb threats since this last election is not lost on me. The paradox of a holiday marking Jewish survival during the week another attempt at a Muslim travel ban was enacted is surreal. Putting air quotes around the words of our Commander in Chief is yet another small cut in the slicing up of our democracy.

Our President is being sarcastic; he doesn’t really mean what he says; that was just locker room banter; it’s “alternative facts.”

I believe we deserve a President who doesn’t need minions to explain his rhetorical Tweeting voice, and a Presidential Press Briefing, without air quotes. The American people don’t need to watch the “built-in sneer” from an Oval Office devoid of compassion. In fact, Andrea Mitchell is a modern day Esther, insisting on answers at press “briefings,” refusing to be escorted from a room. Maybe a pair of parentheses would help us clarify Mr T’s meaning, his intent. Instead of charging President Obama with a felony, he would be revealed in all his paranoia.

(sometimes, alone at Trump Tower, I felt like I was being watched). My tower study (an aviary that functions as my refuge), was warm and inviting this (freezing cold) morning. Here is the view of the (snowy Blue Ridge) mountains. Only hawks watch me write. IMG_0183

 

 

 

 

 

Island Paradise

Now that Bob has retired, we’ve decided it’s time to finally find our dream beach house. Someplace for family reunions, holidays, and maybe even an investment opportunity on AirBnB or VRBO from time to time. The only problem is, what beach?

Of course the island we love is not affordable. So that leaves us with a few options: Outer Banks, too cold; Florida, too predictable (sorry Floridians); Texas Panhandle, nah. Working our way across country, we really loved California, so maybe? But then Hawaii comes to mind.

I was listening to an ER doc from Hawaii on NPR yesterday, he was talking about a new Bill he introduced on the floor of the senate; Josh Green, MD also happens to be a state legislator. After years of practicing Emergency Medicine he said he and his colleagues know by name the homeless people who frequent his ER, and he knows that they suffer from chronic medical conditions that would benefit from simply being off the street. So he proposed a Bill that would give docs the right to prescribe six months of housing, to be supervised by case workers. Treat homelessness as a medical condition. An unusual, intriguing and not a half-bad idea!

A small number of homeless people require a disproportionate amount of medical treatment. According to Green, a recent internal study by a major Hawaiian insurer found that over half of the state’s $2bn Medicaid allotment was consumed by a tiny fraction of users, many of whom are dealing with homelessness, mental illness and substance addiction.

Yet research suggests that healthcare spending for those who have been homeless for long periods and struggle with mental illness and addictions falls by 43% after they have been housed and provided with supportive services. Green said many of the individuals he hopes to house cost the healthcare system an average of $120,000 annually, yet the annual cost to house an individual is $18,000. He thinks that the total savings to the state could be hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/28/hawaii-homeless-housing-bill-healthcare-costs

Surprisingly, just a few days ago, I reconnected with an old friend, a woman who used to be an administrator in Bob’s first ER. After telling me that “Bob and retirement” are two words she never thought she’d hear in the same sentence, she also mentioned that retirement in Hawaii was something she and her husband were thinking about…and for my third coincidental island musing, Hawaii is the first state to file suit against’s Trump’s new “Travel Ban.” Aloha and Mahalo!

For these islanders, the memory of rounding up Japanese citizens after Pearl Harbor is still very real! http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39215990

Now I’ve never been to Hawaii, and I hear that each island is different. Maybe it’s time we scheduled a little trip to the Big Island, or one of the medium-sized ones? Of course, our retirement plans may fall apart depending on what the Republicans do to the ACC, and Mr T does to the global economy.

Meanwhile back at home, we’ve been planting some perennials, practicing Hygge, and dreaming of our Purim Princess Warrior!     IMG_0166

 

 

Yesterday, after listening to yet another sycophant rant about our Deflector-in-Chief, how “something” must have happened at Trump Tower if Mr T says it did, I turned off the TV and downloaded a book on my Ipad. It’s getting harder and harder to watch our democracy self-destruct from within, in 140 characters.

I was going for some peace and quiet with my morning coffee. I wanted to read about the Danes, and why they are considered the happiest people on the planet. Their winters are long and brutal, still they remain upbeat, they have a sense of “Hyggeness,” which loosely translated means cozy intimacy, well-being, or feeling tucked-in as if you haven’t a care in the world. Hygge is pronounced “HOO gah.” Now I know one can achieve this with a Zanax, but I’ve told you before I’m not a pill person.

So I opened my browser, went to Amazon Prime and bought “The Little Book of Hygge” by Meik Wiking – which was more expensive in its Ereader form than in hardcover? Then I opened my Kindle App and voila! I stopped the noise inside my head and started to read.

Instant hygge is possible. All you have to do is light a candle. Danes use twice as many candles as the rest of the world combined. So get a candle from a candle shop and light it. You may also want to switch on a lamp. Lamps can also make you feel hygge. Danes use twice as many lamps as the rest of the world combined. Make sure that if you do get a lamp, you don’t buy one from Ikea. Swedish lamps are a bit rubbish and won’t make you feel hygge.           https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/11/the-little-book-of-hygge-by-meik-wiking-digested-read

That little bit was a satirical piece in the Guardian. But it is pretty funny to think of a group of Danes sitting at a table under a fluorescent lamp fidgeting like they are being burned alive. Not the actual torture part, but thinking about Danish designers and how they love diffused light. When you consider how long the winter nights are in Denmark, it makes sense. In the way that indigenous people of North America venerate snow, the Danes love fire. Wood burning fireplaces crackle and candles burn every night in just about every Danish home. And not the scented kind either.

Being surrounded with family and friends is also key to Hygge. Feeling like you are safe and at home. One night during the Rocker and Aunt KiKi’s wedding week in California, we were all gathered around a fire pit. My Sister-in-Law Jorja was there, and two of her oldest friends. And even though the fire pit was fueled with gas, so we didn’t have the smell or the music of wood burning, it was essential Hygge. Great Grandma Ada came out and started to sing. If only I had known the term at the time!

How could it have been more Hygge?

So I bought a candle and I’m determined to capture some of this Danish serenity for myself. And Bob has been pruning away around the yard; I might suggest a fire pit down by the Buddha garden. We have bluebirds flying all over the place these days, making nests and calling and dancing for mates on our deck. Luckily, nobody is knocking on any of our windows, like that cardinal a few years back. Obviously, pruning shrubs below the window ledge works for our territorial wildlife.

And speaking of migratory animals, I wish someone would point out to Mr T that flying away to his FL mansion every weekend and Tweeting away with his tiny fingers in the wee small hours is not very Presidential. Making paranoid, delusional remarks about his predecessor, ditto. He might benefit from some Hygge with the grandchildren, under a parasol, don’t you agree?       DAVECAITLY-231

“As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t
see than about what they can.” Julius Caesar

Of all the senses we humans rely on from day to day, our sense of sight is for me, paramount. I love looking out at the patchwork slate Blue Mountain range after the sun strikes them and clouds are rolling over them. I love opening the sleeping porch door on these warm Spring days and watching the sun stream through the screens; seeing the tall oaks sway while hearing the March wind whip around the house. Living in the country is like being in a kaleidoscope of color with contiguous shades of yellow buds and green moss fighting for attention.

This week I went to the eye doctor for one of my very long appointments. He likes to keep track of my blind spot, also tenderly known as my “blonde spot.” You know the one, that horrible Homonymous Hemianopsia (the Bride’s fav medical term) I experienced after my bout with West Nile. It’s pretty common for me to become startled by someone approaching from the right, because I don’t see them coming until they are right in front of me. http://www.hemianopsia.net

To test my visual field, I stick my head inside a globe and hold onto a buzzer. The trick is to only look at the central light and buzz when I see a flash of light in my periphery. Sometimes I go for long periods seeing nothing, desperately wanting to push the buzzer, and knowing the flashes of light must be over there, somewhere on my right. I want to cheat and glance to the right, I blink a few times, and suddenly I see the light again.

Lots of things go through my mind in the eye doctor’s office. “Why did I forget my glasses at the Rocker’s wedding?” “Will I be able to drive at night?” “What’s going on with that old lady who wants to talk about the art work on the walls?” “Will that be me in a few more years?” “Who buys their glasses online?”

The news was good. My blonde spot is actually getting a little smaller. The problem is the “Real News” is bad. Everybody saw, with their own eyes, Jeff Sessions tell Congress that he DID NOT have anything to do with any Russians in the lead-up to the election. Then he began to qualify that, pleading poor memory. But if he’s getting some dementia why can he remember that he didn’t talk about the election…and why hasn’t he resigned already?

Our Attorney General lied UNDER OATH!

After the Oscars, a friend of mine created a hashtag #moonlighting. It’s when you think you lost, but you didn’t. The envelope was wrong, poor Warren Beatty was left standing, humiliated by someone else’s mistake. Or maybe he forgot to read the “Best Actress” part before he started talking…or maybe he needs glasses too? Who knew. But I immediately thought:

#moonlighting is like the opposite of #gaslighting

Gaslighting is what Mr T and his cronies love to do with us, the American people. He will say one thing , and then KellyAnne will curl up on a couch and get us all talking about something else. We never know what to believe. His administration treats the truth like it’s surreal art, to be fractured and deconstructed until it resembles something entirely different. And even after he uses a Navy Seal’s wife as a political empath for bi-partisan patriotism, he turns around and signs legislation to allow the mentally ill to buy guns while calling the attacks on his Attorney General Sessions a “total witch hunt!”

Remember his followers chanting “Lock her up?”

Mr T is telling us not to believe what we saw on TV with our own eyes, the Sessions’ big lie about Russia. And for more Dr Strangelove news, Russian media is advising Mr T to stay the course with Sessions. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-39157854

Recusing himself from an investigation into Russian interference in our election is not enough, and I predict by Monday Jeff Sessions will be gone. This house of cards is just waiting for that March wind to come in and sweep up the liars and the lobbyists. Maybe we will all wake from this nightmare that Mr T won the election, by a “landslide.” Maybe the moonlight will cast its shadow on our democracy, and our would-be King, with his jester Bannon, will have to see the folly he has created.

Then we can all dance like nobody’s watching.

davecaitly-619

 

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